The 'Exceptive Clause' -
AN "EXPLANATION": AND THE REAL FACTS
The greatest argument in favour of the 'exceptive clause' contained in Matt.5/32 and 19/9 is that we only have to open up our Bibles at these two passages in order to read it. The onus is upon those who wish to "explain away" the permission to divorce and re-marry given by the Lord Jesus Christ. Some, in an endeavour to do this, have given alternative renderings as follows:
Matt.5/32 A.V. - "whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery"
Matt.5/32 New Translation - "whosoever shall put away his wife, besides the inward motive of lust, causeth her to commit adultery"
Matt.19/9 A.V. - "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery"
Matt.19/9 New Translation - "Whosoever shall put away his wife, if not with a view to lust, and shall marry another, committeth adultery"
It is obvious that the new translations, if correct, show the scholars who were associated with
the rendering in English of the Greek text to have been utterly remiss and incompetent*.
(*added note 2017 - we have in front of us 24 translations, all agreeing with the A.V.)
Not only so, if the new translations prove to be correct, then the 'exceptive clause'
disappears* (*added note 2017 - which of course is the aim of the authors) - for the words of
Jesus, instead of granting a lawful reason for divorce and re-marriage, are claimed to be a
commentary upon the motive of the one who seeks a divorce. Therefore we must critically
examine the reasons given for altering the standard renderings.
Matt.5/32. The Greek text which is translated in the A.V. by "saving for the cause of
fornication" reads "parektos logou porneias". We examine each word in order. "Parektos"
appears only 3 times in the N.T. and is translated "saving" in this verse, "except" in Acts
26/29, and "without" in 2nd Corinth.11/28^.The new translation requires that it should mean
"besides" in the sense of "in addition to", and the addition is linked to v.27-30, where lust is
spoken of. Now in none of the above 3 occurrences do we find substantiation of this* (*cf. 1st
Corinthians 2/13). Leaving the verse in dispute, in Acts 26/29 we read that Paul wished all
to be as he "except these bonds". To substitute "besides" (as meaning "in addition to") is
obviously wrong#. The bonds were an exception to Paul's overall wish, not an addition.
In 2nd Corinth. 11/28, where "parektos" is translated "without" in the A.V. we see quite
plainly the essential meaning of the word. In fact, the word receives its meaning from "ektos",
an adverb, which in turn is derived from "ek", meaning "out of", from which also we get
"ecclesia", 'an assembly of called out ones'-those who are exceptions to the general rule.
"Ektos" is given in Parkhurt's Greek Lexicon as "Without as opposed to within". Liddell &
Scott's Greek Lexicon gives as "without, outside, opposite to 'entos', inside". We must,
therefore, conclude that the essential idea of "parektos" is faithfully conveyed in the 3
passages quoted, i.e. "saving", "except", "without". It shows an exception. Moulton &
Milligan's 'Vocabulary of the Greek Testament' includes examples of concurrent papyri usage
which endorse N.T. usage as shown above>. Next, we look at the word "logou", a form of
"logos". This word and its declensions appear some 331 times in the N.T., and never once does
it carry the meaning of "inward motive" only as required by the new translation*. (*cf. 1st
Corinthians 2/13). Bullinger's Greek Lexicon renders-"the (spoken) word; a word as forming
part of what is spoken; a word as that which is spoken, whether doctrine, prophecy, question,
saying, command, teaching, rumour, argument, charge or accusation; then, the reason, as
demanded or assigned, i.e. reckoning, account". Bearing in mind that in the previous verse 31
Jesus has drawn attention to the "reason" which was "assigned" by way of "a writing of
divorcement" under Moses, we believe it to be self-evident that He is now drawing attention
to the only "reason" which may be "assigned" under His new law. But here we must briefly
(continued on page 2 of the original text below)
(^added note 2017 - the Greek word translated in this verse as 'beside' is not "parektos",
and the Divinely inspired Paul did not make the same mistake as these armchair critics!)
(#added note 2017 - if those who oppose the obvious meaning of "parektos" had taken the
time to look at Strong's derivations, they would have seen that he used "besides" in the
way he himself defines, i.e. "near outside", the root words "ektos" signifying "aside from"
and "para" signifying "beyond or opposed to" - and see our own comments on "ektos"….
an example of the only way "beside(s)" could be applicable here is to be "beside oneself",
i.e. 'out of one's wits', 'at one's wits' end' - a situation which is an exception to normality...
with all of these facts firmly in view, the verse as rendered in 24 plus versions is vindicated)
(>added note 2017 - on page 492 they show its meaning as "apart from", "except", and give
an example of contemporary usage as "apart from the persons written above")
examine a passage put forward as supporting the idea that "inward motive" is, nevertheless,
in spite of the great weight of evidence against it, correct. This is John 1/1 - "In the beginning
was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God".The first question we must
ask is, what time has John in mind when he writes "In the beginning"? There can be only one
answer - Genesis 1/1, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth". The Creation
was accomplished by the spoken word - "And God said, let there be light: and there was light".
Cf. Psalm 103/20-22 and Psalm 33/6-9. John further says "the Word was with God", and the
word "with" is from the Greek "pros", which, when used in connection with the accusative (as
here) denotes "towards", i.e. the word pointed to God as the Creator. John continues, "the
Word was God". Because no definite article is used here before "God", we are being told that
the "word" was but one attribute of God. See Green's 'Handbook to the Grammar of the Greek
Testament', p.206. Thus the word manifested God to those who heard it. Sufficient proof we
feel has been given that even in this case "logos" means "the spoken word".
We now look at "porneias", a form of "porneia", which is defined in Strong's Concordance as
"harlotry (includ. adultery and incest)".The word is derived from the verb "porneuo", meaning
"to act the harlot, i.e. (lit.) indulge unlawful lust (of either sex)"…(translated) - "commit
(fornication)". Thus the essential idea is that of action, whether as a verb or a noun. The
rendering in the new translation of "lust" is obviously wrong. Note that it is not possible to
evade the force of this argument by agreeing to the above, for the whole structure of the new
translation depends upon Jesus drawing attention to the "lust" of v.28. There, however, a
different word is used - "epithumeo", meaning "to set the heart upon". The comments of Jesus
in v.32 have nothing atall to do with His comments in v.28-30. This is evident, because Jesus is
commenting upon two entirely different legislations under Moses (v.27 refers to Exodus 20/14
and v.31 refers to Deuteronomy 24/1). They are divided by the formula (common in this ch.)
"It hath been said...But I say unto you". In no other section in ch.5 does the thought of the
previous one carry over. All are separate in themselves. Should this one be any different? One
final thought upon Matt. 5/32. If we were to accept the new translation, we would also have
to accept the fact that every single person who put away his wife did so for "the inward
motive of lust", for (by this version) "whosoever shall put away his wife, besides the inward
motive of lust, causeth her to commit adultery"*. This in itself proves the new translation to
be wrong. (*The new translation of Matt. 19/9 as well as the A.V. and all other versions
contradict such a hypothesis, for in that place other reasons are highlighted!)
(added note 2017 - the new translation renders wrongly "if not with a view to lust", but still
allows for other reasons, inconsistent with the new translation of Matt. 5/32….the A.V. and
other versions correctly render "except it be for fornication" and similar, also demonstrating
conclusively that the "new translation" of Matt. 5/32 is entirely misleading and utterly wrong)
Matt.19/9. The Greek text which is translated in the A.V. by "except it be for fornication" reads
"ei me epi porneia" in general. Some MSS omit "ei", but this has no bearing upon the matter.
We examine firstly the words "ei me",translated "except". The new translation gives this as "if
not", and this is acceptable, as per Strong's Concordance. However, the new translation tries
to use this acceptable meaning of "ei me" in a completely wrong way! The argument requires
that Jesus is here completing an exposure of man's motives which He began in ch.5. We first
note that Jesus is talking to "the Pharisees" (cf.v.3,7,8) whereas in ch.5 He was talking to "his
disciples" (cf.ch.5/1,2) - therefore it would be hardly appropriate to finish a train of thought
which He began to different people! (added note 2017 - how could this teach anyone hearing
Him all that the new translation is trying to show?). The reason the new translators take their
illogical line of reasoning is because it is claimed that earlier in ch.5/32 Jesus refers to 'lust",
whereas here He refers to any other reason. Therefore He covers (so they claim) in the two
passages, all the reasons why a man would want a divorce - and all result in adultery. We now
want to make one very important point. "If" divorce is "not" for "fornication" then re-marriage
results in adultery. But what "if" divorce is for "fornication"? It is obvious that in such a case
re-marriage does not result in adultery! But the propounders of the new translation deny this
by referring us to the new translation of ch.5/32 as "proof", which is then used to bolster up
a wrong translation in this verse! We have already shown that the new translation of ch.5/32
is wrong and unsupportable in any way. Therefore Jesus cannot have it in mind in ch.19/9.
Why then does Jesus say "except" or "if not"? The reason is obvious. In the previous verses
7 & 8, a particular verse in the O.T., Deuteronomy 24/1, is in view - the same verse with which
Jesus draws a contrast in ch.5/31,32. This verse had relation to a "hardness of heart" statute
under the law, whereby if a man "found some uncleanness" (lit. "matter of nakedness") in his
wife, he was permitted to divorce her.The phrase in the Hebrew is "ervah davar", and it occurs
in only one other place in the O.T., namely Deuteronomy 23/14, where the meaning is obvious
(cf.v.13). It has nothing to do with "fornication", for which an entirely different Hebrew word
"zanah" (with its derivatives) is used throughout the O.T. Jesus knew that Deut.24/1 (which
had been raised by the Pharisees) dealt with matters of physical blemish, not "fornication". He
shows (v.8) that the Mosaic provision was but temporary, and was not according to God's
intention "from the beginning". He continues (v.9) - "And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put
away his wife, except (or "if not") for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth
adultery". The contrast is plain. Here we have the powerful meaning of "ei me", which is
entirely lost by the incorrect teaching promoted in the new translation of v.9.
(to be completed)
We have been asked recently by a correspondent to explain a thesis written by some who believe in the Catholic heresy of absolute indissolubility of marriage. And although it is now November 2017, old errors persist, and it was no real surprise to find that we had refuted this same faulty reasoning back in 1973. So rather than go over again the same ground, we provided our enquirer with a copy of the original article which we wrote in refutation of this pernicious error. We are now making the original typewritten article available to a much wider audience. It will be found useful for any truth-seeker who might be troubled by the same specious and discredited reasoning. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" - Isaiah 8v20.